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Dateline Patna
By Syed Mohammad Iqbal

Bihar, where the ruling Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) leaders swear by their concern for the cause of minorities, increasing cases of encroachment upon their religious places have caused resentment among a good number of Muslims in and around the state capital. The latest update has come from the Danapur subdivision, where the chief minister Rabri Devi's caste men Yadavas have forcibly turned a mosque at Maner some 25 km from capital Patna into a cowshed after driving away the mosque's caretaker .

The mosque, one of the oldest in Maner is being used by Yadvas as a cowshed, making it difficult for the Muslims to offer prayers there. When the caretaker of the mosque protested the nefarious move, he was threatened with riots, says an aggrieved Muslim of Maner. It is also alleged that the place is also being used for gambling and prostitution. The graveyard at Maner also seems to be in the process of being encroached upon.

A statue of late Congress MP Ramnagina Singh, has been installed on the graveyard land, which has aroused Muslim suspicions about the motive of late Singh's followers. Yet another plot of graveyard land, situated on the outskirts of Maner has also been encroached, with a cinema hall having come up on the land nearby, to the anguish of Muslims.Though the matter is now in the court, the state government's silence from the very beginning has disheartened liberal circles and the minorities of the Yadav-dominated Danapur subdivision.
Incidentally, a similar case of encroachment upon Qabristan land was reported from Fatuha, 30 km east of Patna a few years ago. Several missives were sent to the district administration seeking its intervention to free the graveyard but to no avail. Here it may be recalled that the RJD supremo Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar, now Union Railway Minister, had together sat on dharna at Fatuha demanding immediate removal of encroachments from the graveyard. However, the same Mr Yadav maintained stoic silence on the issue when he had become the chief minister of the state later.

Mr Irshad Ahmad, general secretary of the Bihar Pradesh Muslim Conference at that time held the state government in general and Laloo Prasad Yadav in particular responsible for the wanton acts of yadavas during the last few years. He regretted that despite complaints lodged with the police station concerned, no step was taken to free the religious shrines. Mr Ahmad disclosed that the Bihar Pradesh Muslim Conference had drawn the attention of Mr Yadav during Iftar party in 1996 towards the forcible occupation of mosques, particularly in Maner, Fatuha and Patna city areas of the district.

However, he kept mum on the issue. Interestingly
Mr Ahmad alleged that Muslim ministers of RJD
government too preferred to remain silent. Another Muslim leader, who did not wish to be quoted, rued that while the RJD government talks about Muslim welfare and their leaders love to shout the slogan of M-Y combination, the Yadavas had launched a campaign of sorts to defile the holy places of Muslims. Many of the 40 mosques in the urban and semi-urban areas of the district are silent witnesses to encroachments by Yadavas and were being used as cowsheds.

Muslim leaders threatened to hold public shows throughout the state of video films on the mosques if the RJD government continues to ignore their religious feelings. Senior Janta Dal leader and former minister of state for finance, Faiyaz Bhagalpuri, meanwhile, has threatened to launch an agitation if the encroachments were not removed from the Muslims holy places soon. Mr Jawed a dynamic worker of RJD said that even for Mukhia election which was held recently only Muslims cast their votes to Yadavas but Yadavas never cast their votes to any Muslim candidate. They openly used to say that we never cast our vote to any community.

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